In some ways, our graduating seniors have been given the extraordinary gift of perspective. Catholic school graduates are moving on, formed in Gospel values, and we are counting on them to lead us forward into the new normal.
Walking across the stage in the McNeice Pavilion at Boston College High School on May 29, 1993, to receive my diploma is forever ingrained in my brain. The previous four years of effort, sometimes lack of effort, friendships and new experiences were all memorialized in my hand with my new diploma. The journey was both complete and had not yet begun.
During that ceremony, Father J. Bryan Hehir gave the commencement address to the 125th graduating class at Boston College High School. Father Hehir is a brilliant, humble priest whose depth of experience and knowledge are something at which I marvel. However, I can honestly say I do not remember a word of what he said (apologies to Father Hehir). On that day in 1993, my focus was on the diploma clasped tightly in my hand and wondering when I could take off my maroon bow tie and white dinner jacket and be done with the ceremony.
Did something magical happen when Father Fahey handed me my diploma 27 years ago? It felt magical, but it was simply marking a moment. Regardless of the ceremony occurring or not, I had successfully completed four years of high school and was prepared with the tools for what lay ahead and expected to enter the world as a "man for others." I would certainly have felt a great void if there were no graduation ceremony, but this thought never entered my mind. I took the ceremony as a given.
The students today share an experience forged in the common struggle of this pandemic, but more importantly, it is forged in an awareness that nothing in life is certain and should not be taken for granted. Hopefully, knowing that what we previously took for granted -- graduations, sporting events, attending Mass, accessing the sacraments, hugging loved ones, or just visiting friends -- may not always be there for us will make us more aware and grateful as life returns to the new normal. It will make us more aware of and drawn to action for those for whom economic security, access to food, healthcare, housing and quality education are not certain.
Twenty-seven years ago, I was going through the motions, anxious for the graduation ceremony to be over so I could go celebrate with my friends and family, taking moments for granted that today students do not get to experience. If I had an understanding of the privilege to be able to participate in a graduation ceremony, perhaps I would have appreciated it more at the moment and paid more attention to one of the great Catholic thinkers of our time.
In some ways, our graduating seniors have been given the extraordinary gift of perspective. Catholic school graduates are moving on, formed in Gospel values, and we are counting on them to lead us forward into the new normal. We celebrate and congratulate them on what they have accomplished and look towards a future that has just begun with great hope. These students affirm the importance of our work at the Catholic Schools Foundation. Catholic education makes a difference, and these students demonstrate that fact.
This pandemic has forever altered the world. Let us hope it has created a world of gratitude for what we have and empathy for those who face loss and separation each day. For the Class of 2020, may their memory not be the loss of a moment, but an appreciation of every moment and every person.
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.